It was a rainy Saturday morning in March, 1991 when my beautiful bride Lori walked down the aisle to me. It was the day of the big St. Paddy’s Day parade, but the church was full of friends and family. As Mrs. Jan Rodgers teased 10 majestic chimes from the great old pipe organ, the bridal party came down the aisle to take their places on the chancel.
The doors opened as the organ switched to the Bridal Chorus, and she emerged from the foyer. Her daddy held her arm tightly, and he let go for the last time before letting her approach the altar. She was resplendent in her white gown, and her face seemed to glow under the veil as she walked up to me. Standing there in my black tux, I didn’t notice my uncomfortable bowtie and tight shoes as I looked into her soft blue-gray eyes. She uttered not a word, but those eyes spoke volumes. They told me that she loved me, that she trusted me, and that this was right.
As we took our places in front of our pastor, Dr. Jim Futral, I felt a sense of completion, but also of anticipation. All of the planning, all of the expense, all of the details had led to this moment. But it wasn’t an ending; it was a beginning.
Now, 22 years later, I think of the events that we have experienced together. We’ve moved five times. We’ve had a half-dozen vehicles and as many jobs. Together, we’ve seen hundreds of movies, traveled thousands of miles and seen the sights. Every day, we still use our original Lenox Blue Brushstrokes dishes and Oneida silverware, given to us as wedding presents. Our original washer and dryer gave up the ghost a few years back, but we still use our original mixer.
Most significantly, we have brought into the world two beautiful babies. We have checked into the hospital in the middle of the night, visited the doctor countless numerous times and made 10 p.m. trips to Walgreens in search of poster paper for some “emergency” project. We’ve attended preschool plays and high school band performances, T-ball games and scout ceremonies. Those babies are rapidly now turning into fine young men of faith and conviction. They may not have the latest and coolest clothes and gear, but they have something far more valuable: a home full of love, where they will always be welcomed and accepted, and parents who tried to teach them who God is and how to know Him.
Lori and I were destined to be together. As kids, we lived just one block over from each other. She and her family lived on Kirkley Drive, along the big hill down which my friends and I used to ride our bikes. Although Lori and I were close to the same age, and in the same grade at school, we really didn’t know each other that well. Her brother Barry and I used to walk to Emma Green school together, and I knew he had a sister named Lori, but that was about it. In the sixth grade, we went to school together, but being in different homerooms, we didn’t interact much.
But over there in that house was a little pigtailed girl who would one day grow up to become my wife. And little did she know that, one day, a skinny little freckle-faced boy from Neering Trail would grow up and steal her heart.
I had a dream one night in 1989, just a few months before I finished graduate school in Hattiesburg. In the dream, I remember I met Barry’s sister Lori, all grown up. The next day, I started thinking about her. What had become of her? What kind of person did she turn out to be? Was she married? (Back then, there was no Google or Facebook, of course.) As Providence would have it, however, I got the chance to find out.
After graduation, I got a job working for the Red Cross in Jackson. I decided I would try different churches in the area, to see which one seemed like the best fit for me. My family had gone to Broadmoor briefly back in the 1970’s, and so I decided to go there. On my first Sunday in Jackson, January 1990, I went up front after the service to meet the Pastor. Dr. Jim Futral warmly shook my hand and said I should come back. I said I liked Broadmoor, and had decided on the spot to join. I told him I would be back next week to join, and he looked me in the eye and said, “Why wait? Come back tonight!” So I did. That Sunday evening, I went up front to join the church.
Of course, everybody made me welcome and there was a stream of people coming through. In the line was a pretty girl with long brown hair and deep blue-gray eyes. My own eyes got wide when she told me her name. “Lori Grantham,” she introduced herself. “I remember you!” I said, and with a flash of recognition, she remembered me too. After church that night, we talked for a while. It was the beginning of a beautiful thing. Shyly, I asked her out, and she kept saying she couldn’t go. I thought she was putting me off, but she was working nights. Finally, I got her to go to lunch with me. From there, our relationship grew. A few months later, in July, I put a ring on her finger. The following March, we were married.
Every now and then, I think about the years that have flown by and how we have changed. We have both gotten older, and hopefully a little wiser. Together, we have faced everything. I regret that I stopped doing the little things I did to win her heart at first (such as putting little Far Side cartoons on her windshield while she was at work). Sometimes I am not as patient as I should be, and take her for granted sometimes.
Marriage is hard. You have to have love to make it work. And I don’t mean mushy-dating-wear-my-letter-jacket love. I mean I’m-committed-to-stay-with-you-no-matter-what-the-cost love. That is what we have. Neither one of us is perfect, but we are both in it for the long haul. In the last couple of years, I have faced gut-wrenching changes in my job situation. During this time, God has been trying to show me something; I am still not sure of what. But I have been trying hard to listen.
Every time I get my hopes up that it will get better, and then those hopes are dashed, I take it hard. Lori is always right there, fighting for me, fighting with me, and reminding me that God is on the throne. I think God knew I would always be demanding answers. “Poor me,” I think sometimes. “Why is this happening to me?” For Lori, her faith is simple and strong. She has been facing challenges of her own, with searingly painful knees and ankles, it is hard for her to even walk sometimes. But she continues on, determined to be the wife, mother, friend and teacher God wants her to be. She doesn’t really know just how important she is to our little corner of the world, but I know three guys and a little blond dog who wouldn’t know what to do without her.
Yesterday, I got some bad news about a job, and this morning, I really didn’t want to get out of bed. But we need the money, so I got up and went to work. I was sitting at my desk at 8:23 a.m., feeling sorry for myself, when my phone chimed with a text. It was from Lori and said simply, “Psalm 46:1” (God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.) Following was this simple message: “I really love you. I don’t know what the plan is that God has for you, but I knew he hasn’t left you. And I won’t either.”
In Proverbs 31, Solomon — the wisest mortal ever known — writes about a noble wife. I have one of those, so here I am, praising her at the closest thing we have to a city gate. She is a better person than me. I am so blessed and thankful that a great God loves me so much that he planned for that little girl in pigtails to one day walk the aisle with me, and serve Him together for all the time we have together. I love you, sweet Lori, forever and ever.